Getting gov't docs online, and a problem with privacy

Getting gov't docs online, and a problem with privacy

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Looks like people using simple Net tech can get government info online really well, like at USASpending.gov. It was sponsored by Senators Obama and Coburn, but effected mostly by OMB Watch in conjunction with Sunlight Foundation. (More details here.)

A really good effort has been led by Carl Malamud, An Effort to Upgrade a Court Archive System to Free and Easy, talks about the effort, and a legitimate problem with this kind of thing:

To Mr. Malamud, putting the nation’s legal system behind a wall of cash and kludge separates the people from what he calls the “operating system for democracy.” So, using $600,000 in contributions in 2008, he bought a 50-year archive of papers from the federal appellate courts and placed them online. By this year, he was ready to take on the larger database of district courts.

Those courts, with the help of the Government Printing Office, had opened a free trial of Pacer at 17 libraries around the country. Mr. Malamud urged fellow activists to go to those libraries, download as many court documents as they could, and send them to him for republication on the Web, where Google could get to them.

Aaron Swartz, a 22-year-old Stanford dropout and entrepreneur who read Mr. Malamud’s appeal, managed to download an estimated 20 percent of the entire database: 19,856,160 pages of text.

Unfortunately, many involved neglected to remove personally identifying information, like Social Security Numbers.

I don't feel that's a problem with electronic records so much as with inappropriate behavior on the part of certain partcipants.

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